Op-Eds

In-depth features and interviews, and photo essays   
South China Morning Post
  1. The great myth of Shenzhen bursting forth from humble fishing village to skyscraping megalopolis has been perpetuated ad nauseam for decades, by earnest politicians, foreign business consultants and lazy journalists alike.But the truth is more intriguing and, it must be said, far sleazier. Well into the 1930s, Shum Chun, the town that gave Shenzhen its name, was a gangsters’ haven serving risk-hungry Hongkongers pouring across the river that separated the British colony from the mainland into…
  2. “Aalingoon came into the bay and lives beneath the sea,” wrote late Indigenous pearl shell carver Aubrey Tigan Galiwa, quoted in Lustre, a 2018 book about the Australian pearling industry.“He comes out every full moon, when it’s a big tide. As he floats on his back, as he drifts, the scales fall off his back, and turn into goowarn [pearl shells] as they drift down to the seabed below. The tides come in and chuck them everywhere, on the reefs, all around the islands. This way he always gives us…
  3. Trade winds: I think a lot of Dutch people have a sense of travel. It’s in the blood. My parents married in Amsterdam in 1969 and moved to Singapore as a young couple. My father got a job with Hagemeyer, a trading company. I was born in Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore, in 1970, the first of five children. After two years my father was transferred to Malaysia.Capital village: Kuala Lumpur was super small, more like a big kampong (village) than a capital city. The area where the twin towers…
  4. Most Chinese people know the old saying that “illness finds its way in by the mouth” (bing cong kou ru), though far too many continue to learn this lesson in an all-too-literal way.Thirty-two years ago, when I was a first-year student at college in Shanghai, several of my classmates were among 300,000 residents hospitalised with hepatitis A after consuming contaminated raw clams. Twenty years later, about the same number of Chinese babies fell victim to milk products adulterated with melamine…
  5. The scene is straight out of a Dutch oil painting from Bali’s colonial era. Children splash in a clear stream that meanders through a verdant jungle, the cone of a distant volcano visible through gaps in the palm trees, coconuts dangling in a light breeze.In the century that has passed, this once-remote tropical island has metamorphosed into one of the top travel destinations on Earth. In 2019, 16 million people chose to holiday in Bali. They came for the sand and the surf, the Hindu customs…
  6. 1. What it’s like to be black and African in Hong KongDespite being born and raised in the city – and speaking Cantonese – many black residents experience racism as part of their everyday life.2. What happened to Hainan, China’s ‘Hawaii of the East’?Despite Beijing’s ‘special zone’ initiatives, plans to turn the tropical island province into the ‘Hawaii of the East’ have not succeeded in attracting international travellers.3. Cambodian city loses bet as money for Chinese casinos dries…
  7. One of the questions my six-year-old daughter has begun to ask concerns Santa Claus. How does he manage to deliver all those presents to the world’s children in a single night? Luckily, she already knows the answer: a combination of magic reindeer, an ability to scale the insides of chimneys at warp speed and a deft negotiation of international time zones. Another new question this Christmas is: do people across the world celebrate Christmas in the same way? Right now, she thinks eight billion…
  8. It is the 15th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, the Hungry Ghost Festival, and fires blaze on the streets. Some onlookers pray. Many more stand by and watch plumes of black smoke billow above the vintage shopfronts and restaurants.The pious residents of Penang’s state capital, George Town, are burning “hell money” to appease the ancestors who emerge from the “lower realm” around this time of year. Deeper into this Unesco Heritage Site neighbourhood, at a temple on King Street…
  9. The stairway to the heavens starts in Texas. In 2003, a young Elon Musk was scouting for a suitable location to fulfil his dream of becoming a space pioneer. A year earlier, he had started Space Exploration Technologies Corp – SpaceX for short – with the aim of building rockets and one day sending humans to the moon, or even Mars. First, though, he had to find somewhere to carry out the noisy and dangerous job of rocket testing. The wide open spaces of freewheeling Texas, where folk are more…
  10. What’s the story? My family is Irish. My dad is from Cork and in his early 20s he went to Manchester with the Legion of Mary (Catholic volunteer association) to help out in a hostel. He met my mum, who is from Manchester, through the Legion of Mary. They fell in love and never left.My dad was a bricklayer and, later, a builder. I was born in 1979 and grew up in Burnage, south Manchester, which is best known as the childhood home of the Oasis brothers, Liam and Noel Gallagher. My mum was a…